Week One: Baumgartner Dogged by Tea Party Pledge, Congressman Paul Ryan

SEATTLE – This can’t be how he imagined it.

It’s only been a week, but U.S. Senate candidate Michael Baumgartner is already playing defense. He’s been dogged by a far-right Tea Party pledge, attacked by a hometown columnist for abandoning his role as a state senator, and declared Congressman Paul Ryan — one of the least popular and most conservative Republicans in the country — as his role model.

“Michael Baumgartner’s rollout week made one very specific Washington constituency happy – the Tea Party,” said Dwight Pelz, chair of the Washington State Democrats. “Any dreams of introducing himself as a candidate who could appeal to moderate Washington voters have been dashed by his connections to the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party.”

Instead of introducing himself to voters, Baumgartner was forced to spend the week answering questions about a Tea Party pledge from the Spokane County Republican Party that he signed last year. Among other things, the pledge supports privatizing Social Security, abolishing the Department of Education, and curtailing women’s right to choose.

Then, in an interview with the Inlander, Baumgartner cited Congressman Paul Ryan — whose Medicare-ending plan was rejected by an overwhelming majority of Americans — as his political mentor. Ryan’s wildly unpopular plan would prevent more than 500,000 Washingtonians from receiving Medicare when they retire, and would immediately reopen the Medicare doughnut hole for nearly 70,000 Washington seniors.

To wrap up his first week, Baumgartner was sharply criticized on Tuesday by a hometown columnist for wanting to jump ship less than one year into his four year term in Olympia. Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark asked, “Whatever happened to the concepts of paying your dues and putting in your time?”

During his 2010 campaign for the state Senate, Baumgartner denied allegations that he would use the seat as a stepping stone for higher office – a promise he managed to break less than a year later.